The Hunchback of Notre Dame Review
“Almost all our desires, when examined, contain something too shameful to reveal.”
– Victor Hugo.
As we climb the tower to the Attic we hear a bell toll from above. Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame is waiting for us, his deformed body partly turned away as he sits watching over his beloved gypsy girl, La Esmerelda.
From between the gargoyles of the great cathedral of Notre Dame, the dark gothic heart of Paris, he peers out over the city that he loves, even though it has an ugly side. By night the streets are crime ridden and violent and daily witness public scenes of torture and execution. It’s a city that he knows well, but only at a distance. Ostracised by its mean-hearted citizens because of his appearance he must take solace in himself and he talks to them only through the cathedral’s bells, telling them when to pray, repent or mourn.
People have called him ugly for so long that even his soul now believes it. “Do you think I’m ugly, would you kiss me?” he asks. “Doesn’t mean I don’t want to kiss you”. He knows that to force himself on a woman would be wrong. Not something that seems to bother his adoptive father, the Archdeacon of the cathedral who has ordered Quasimodo to abduct Esmerelda.
Pip Utton has stripped back Hugo’s more complicated plot to leave us with what is essentially a meditation on the meaning of beauty and a tale of unrequited love. The themes of revolution, social strife and determinism merely underlie. Quasimodo is not the nearly non-vocal brute that is sometimes seen and he is skilfully allowed him to show that he is human, driven by desires.
Those who know Pip Utton’s other work might want it to be more overtly challenging but there is no denying that it’s beautifully crafted and his performance is absolutely compelling.
We climb down from the tower with Quasimodo’s words ringing in our ears – “Ugliness is like beauty, it’s only skin deep”. Back to the real world. On TV tonight - Addicted to Plastic Surgery, How do I look?, Ten Years Younger and Dating in the Dark.
Footnotes: Pip Utton is also Charles Dickens at New Town Theatre. 5-29 August 2010 (not 17), 6.45pm. Belt Up’s Quasimodo is at C Soco. 4-30 August (alternate days) 2010, 11pm.
4-29 (not 17) August 2010, 3.15pm.
£8.50 (£7.00). £10.00 (£9.00) Saturdays and Sundays.